by Dr. Parker
Would you believe me if I said you’re not human?
Instead, what if I said that you were just an elaborate vessel that carries bacteria through the world and helps them survive and reproduce?
Yea, I’d say I was crazy, too. But this crazy idea has been discussed with mild seriousness in the world of microbial research. They can make such heinous claims because the bacteria that live inside you are proving to be more abundant than once thought.
Some estimates say that 90% of your DNA is bacterial DNA. That fact, alone, begs the question – If the DNA has a bacterial origin, can it still be considered your DNA?
Also, billions of bacteria living peacefully inside your gut, on your skin, and throughout your body can literally “control” your internal environment in many unique ways. Here are some examples:
- Your microbiome helps you digest your food so you can absorb more nutrients. It also helps produce essential enzymes, vitamins, and neurotransmitters that the rest of your cells need to function.[i]
- Good bacteria communicate with your cells to control metabolism, regulate your blood sugar, and control abdominal fat growth.[ii]
- Your good bacteria help fight harmful bacteria by competing for resources and sending signals to activate your immune cells. They also help educate and train your immune cells so your body can fight infections more effectively.[iii]
- Your microbiome helps coordinate wound healing by influencing angiogenesis and stem cell activation.[iv] (angiogenesis is a big word for blood vessel growth)
- Your gut microbiome acts like a second liver because it helps neutralize toxins.[v]
- Good bacteria help develop and maintain the integrity of your gut lining, which prevents bad stuff from sneaking through your gut wall and causing unwanted inflammation.[vi]
- Your microbiome can modulate gene expression in response to a changing environment in your gut.[vii] Yes, your microbiome can literally control your genes by turning on and off specific genes at specific times in life. No, your bacteria won’t change your eye color, but they could potentially change how your cells and organs function at times.
- Your microbiome helps regulate your hormones and can even change the chemistry of your brain. For example, 90% of all serotonin (the feel-good hormone) is produced by gut bacteria.[viii] Also, your gut sends nine times more signals to your brain than your brain sends to your gut. The signals from your gut can change the chemistry in your brain and affect your mood, stress, anxiety, hunger, and even your sexual and social behaviors.[ix]
So, with all these ways to control your brain and body, it may not be too farfetched that humans evolved to be a vessel for bacteria. In fact, our whole existence may have been concocted by a bunch of bacteria trying to live their best life in a cozy vessel called a human…
…Okay, it’s still pretty farfetched. But the moral is that the good bacteria inside you are vitally important for your existence, survival, and health. You depend on your bacteria, and your bacteria depend on you.
[i] Young VB. The role of the microbiome in human health and disease: an introduction for clinicians. BMJ. 2017;356:j831. Published 2017 Mar 15. doi:10.1136/bmj.j831
[ii] Singer-Englar T, Barlow G, Mathur R. Obesity, diabetes, and the gut microbiome: an updated review. Expert Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2019;13(1):3–15. doi:10.1080/17474124.2019.1543023
[iii] Young VB. The role of the microbiome in human health and disease: an introduction for clinicians. BMJ. 2017;356:j831. Published 2017 Mar 15. doi:10.1136/bmj.j831
[iv] Sajib S, Zahra FT, Lionakis MS, German NA, Mikelis CM. Mechanisms of angiogenesis in microbe-regulated inflammatory and neoplastic conditions. Angiogenesis. 2018;21(1):1–14. doi:10.1007/s10456-017-9583-4
[v] Zimmermann M, Zimmermann-Kogadeeva M, Wegmann R, Goodman AL. Mapping human microbiome drug metabolism by gut bacteria and their genes. Nature. 2019;570(7762):462–467. doi:10.1038/s41586-019-1291-3
[vi] Obrenovich MEM. Leaky Gut, Leaky Brain?. Microorganisms. 2018;6(4):107. Published 2018 Oct 18. doi:10.3390/microorganisms6040107
[vii] Plaza-Diaz J, Gomez-Llorente C, Fontana L, Gil A. Modulation of immunity and inflammatory gene expression in the gut, in inflammatory diseases of the gut and in the liver by probiotics. World J Gastroenterol. 2014;20(42):15632–15649.
[viii] O’Mahony SM, Clarke G, Borre YE, Dinan TG, Cryan JF. Serotonin, tryptophan metabolism and the brain-gut-microbiome axis. Behav Brain Res. 2015;277:32–48. doi:10.1016/j.bbr.2014.07.027
[ix] Ornish D, Ornish A. Undo It!: How Simple Lifestyle Changes Can Reverse Most Chronic Diseases. New York: Ballantine Books; 2019.
P.S. If you want some habits and tips & tricks for improving your quality of life, check out Dr. Parker’s book, “Lifelong Youth: The Simple Path to a Long & Youthful Life.” You can find it here.
Dr. Parker Hewes
If you are dealing with some nagging issues that you just need a little help with, give Dr. Parker a call. He specializes in sports injuries throughout the arms, legs, and back.